Carolina Hurricanes Head-to-Head in New Metropolitan Division: Philadelphia Flyers

By Dylan Howlett (@DylanHowlett)

No team in hockey napalms like the Philadelphia Flyers.

Trade two elite centers and franchise cornerstones? Sure. Give a free-agent goaltender $51 million and buy him out two years later? Uh-huh. Fire a coach three games into a season? Absolutely.

Under the guidance of knee-jerk reactionaries Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider, the Flyers have supplied offseason pyrotechnics unmatched by any NHL team. General Manager Holmgren and Owner Snider were at it again in the summer of 2013, handing the largest buyout in NHL history to their astronomically savvy goaltender. They shelled out north of $45 million to an oft-injured yet uber-gifted center, an aging defenseman and a goalie who didn’t start last season.

Centers, and captains, of attention — Claude Giroux and Eric Staal resume another year of Flyers-Canes (Photo Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images).

Centers, and captains, of attention — Claude Giroux and Eric Staal resume another year of Flyers-Canes (Photo Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images).

The moves would, Holmgren and Snider hoped, correct the team’s wayward direction, one that led Philadelphia away from the playoffs in 2013 for the first time since 2006-07. But with the dismissal today of head coach Peter Laviolette, the Flyers appear to be a piece of driftwood, searching longingly for an identity that management would just as soon blow up than try to solidify.

Napalm, after all, isn’t the most unifying force.

That’s little solace to the Carolina Hurricanes, a whipping boy of the Flyers during the last five seasons. But with a 2-1 win Sunday against Philadelphia, driving the death knell into Laviolette’s tenuous job security, the Canes temporarily exorcised a team that has habitually terrorized them.

It was one game. It was the Flyers’ third of the season, the Hurricanes’ second. But it could have been a glimpse into what could be in 2013-14 — one team on, possibly, an under-the-radar upswing, the other fumbling around for what it still hasn’t found.

The seventh and final installment of The Hockey Guys‘ look into Carolina’s Metro Division rivals features the Philadelphia Flyers.

Games on The Schedule:

  1. Oct. 6 at Carolina
  2. Nov. 5 at Carolina
  3. Jan. 21 at Philadelphia
  4. Apr. 13 at Philadelphia* (last day of regular season)

Head-to-Head Stats Since 2008-09:

  • Record: 3-12-4 (1-6-2 home; 2-6-2 away; 10 of 38 possible points)
  • Goals For: 41
  • Goals Against: 72
  • Goal Differential: -31
  • Power-Play Goals Scored per Game: .52
  • Power-Play Goals Allowed per Game: 1.0

How The Flyers Changed During the 2013 Offseason:

How the Flyers didn’t change during the offseason more accurately describes Philadelphia’s incessant wheeling and dealing.

Holmgren used both of the Flyers’ compliance buyouts on beleaguered goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and winger Daniel Briere, whose waning production struggled to justify his $6.5 million cap hit.

With newfound cap space in tow, Holmgren eagerly went to market. He signed 35-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a four-year, $21 million deal after acquiring his rights from the Islanders. He signed 33-year-old center Vincent Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract after the Lightning exercised a compliance buyout on the face of their franchise. And Holmgren signed goalie Ray Emery, who won the Stanley Cup in 2013 with Chicago as Corey Crawford’s backup, to a one-year, $1.65 million deal.

Who will replace Ilya Bryzgalov's universe-sized personality in the Flyers' crease? Sunday night, it was Steve Mason, who made 25 saves in a 2-1 loss (Photo Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images).

Who will replace Ilya Bryzgalov’s universe-sized personality in the Flyers’ crease? Sunday night, it was Steve Mason, who made 25 saves in a 2-1 loss (Photo Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images).

Emery will compete for the Flyers’ starting job — suffused with as much positive karma as the drummers of Spinal Tap — with Steve Mason, a former Calder Trophy winner whom Holmgren acquired at the 2013 trade deadline. Five days after the trade, the Flyers signed Mason to a one-year, $1.5 million extension.

Depth winger Ruslan Fedotenko and veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja signed deals with European teams. Enforcer Jody Shelley retired and joined the Blue Jackets as a broadcaster. Wingers Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble walked, as did defensemen Kent Huskins and Kurtis Foster, who left for the KHL. Gagne, Knuble and Huskins all remain unemployed as unrestricted free agents.

To add some snarl to a blue line that has remained conspicuously tentative since Chris Pronger’s quasi-retirment, Holmgren signed training camp-invitee Hal Gill to a one-year contract. The 38-year-old, six-foot-seven defenseman won the 2009 Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and, as a Montreal Canadien, lost to the Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final.

Career Stats Against Carolina among Notable Offseason Additions:

  • Vincent Lecavalier: 81 games played, 31 goals, 47 assists, 78 points, plus-13
  • Mark Streit: 27 games played, 5 goals, 12 assists, 17 points, minus-6
  • Ray Emery: 5 games played, 5-0, 0.74 GAA, .977 SV%
  • Hal Gill: 54 games played, 0 goals, 6 assists, 6 points, even

Playoff Meetings in Franchise History: None

The Flyers’ and Hurricanes’ postseason paths nearly crossed in 2008 — had the Canes held off the fast-charging Washington Capitals to win the Southeast Divsion, Carolina would have played Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Instead, Joffrey Lupul’s overtime winner in Game 7 sent the Caps home and the Flyers to the conference semifinals.

Key Match-up — Flyers’ Power Play vs. Canes’ Penalty Kill:

The Flyers’ power play remains lethal. In 2013, the Canes made most power plays seem deadly.

Despite missing the playoffs in 2013, Philadelphia boasted the third-best power play in the NHL. Carolina, meanwhile, had the third-worst penalty kill in the league. Since 2008-09, the Flyers have averaged exactly one power-play goal per game against the Hurricanes.

It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that the Canes’ penalty kill must be better against the Flyers’ vaunted man-advantage unit. Carolina did precisely that Sunday night, allowing zero shots on the Flyers’ two power-play opportunities.

Key Opponent — Vincent Lecavalier:

Lecavalier torched the Hurricanes during his storied 16-year career with Tampa Bay. His 31 goals, 47 assists, 78 points and 80 games played are the most against any team on his hall-of-fame resumé. An adept power-play facilitator, Lecavalier also figures to cause the Canes consternation on the power play, as if he needed another chance to victimize Carolina.

Jordan Staal and Vincent Lecavalier, two key players in this year's Canes-Flyers rivalry, spar during Sunday's game (Photo Credit: Grant Halverson).

Jordan Staal and Vincent Lecavalier, two key players in this year’s Canes-Flyers rivalry, spar during Sunday’s game (Photo Credit: Grant Halverson).

Critical Cane — Jordan Staal:

Like Lecavalier and the Hurricanes, Staal and the Flyers are familiar adversaries. Eric’s younger brother knows Philadelphia all too well from Flyers-Penguins bloodbaths during his six seasons in Pittsburgh. A stout penalty killer and shorthanded threat, Staal will be tasked with subduing the Flyers’ quick-strike power play — and educating his teammates about the pugilistic tendencies of the Orange and Black.

Head-to-Head Significance Meter — 10/10

More than any other Metro Division rival, the Canes must improve their play against the Flyers to sniff the playoffs. A 60-minute effort like the one the Canes authored Sunday , in which Carolina manhandled Philadelphia along the boards and in the corners, serves as a blueprint for handling a particularly troublesome opponent.





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